Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention plan and early warning signs

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Call our local number 01603 513 091
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Relapse Prevention is arguably one of the most important components of drug and alcohol rehab within Abbeycare and the maintenance of recovery.

Addiction is known as a chronic relapsing condition.

Bearing that in mind and due to the danger attached to alcohol and drug use, Relapse Prevention techniques and strategies can protect the substance user from the catastrophic effects of re-dependence.

A return to problematic substance use can be counteracted with the appropriate care, attention, expertise and infrastructure in place. To support, encourage, educate and change the behaviours attached to using substances hazardous to health and lifestyle.

Relapse Prevention at Abbeycare

Abbeycare is a residential rehab clinic. The intention of rehab within Abbeycare is to support programme participants to become alcohol/drug free, arm them with the tools to sustain ‘normal living’ and ensure relapse does not occur.

Every area of the rehab facility has been organised to cater for all of the above and happens within three areas.

  • Detox
  • Rehab
  • Aftercare

Each area has been specifically designed to combat relapse. The Detox is prescribed to patients on an individual person-centred basis after a further and comprehensive medical report and assessment has been undertaken.

The Detox will be delivered on a daily basis and tapered off gradually and will normally last 7-14 days. The prescription is written by the specialist medical doctor to ensure the patient is comfortable as alcohol or drugs are withdrawn.

The correct prescription and support of the team within Abbeycare during this time encourages the patient to keep on going until they reach the end of their detox. Hopeful for a future without the need or use of alcohol and drugs.

The Rehab phase at Abbeycare is the main component for change to occur within a programme participant. Change is vital for ongoing recovery to occur Post Rehab.

The team of Psychotherapists clients will work with are trained in many counselling skills created to promote a change of thinking and behaviour around the purchasing and consuming of alcohol or drugs.

Prior to rehab the belief may be that substances are required to be taken in order to perform normal daily functioning or not to become unwell. Once these substances have been removed this faulty thinking will be addressed.

The client will no longer believe they need alcohol or drugs to survive and will hopefully have identified with therapist support their need for change.

Many forms of therapy will be delivered to ensure the relationship with drugs and alcohol is challenged, denial has been changed to acceptance and the desire to continue using alcohol or drugs Post Rehab has been removed.

Without detox and rehab, aftercare would not exist. Aftercare has been created with the soul intention of supporting long-term recovery and ceasing the use post rehab.

Aftercare is supportive, inclusive, empowering and promotive of long-term sobriety.

Participants in the aftercare programme can make strong connections with others and build lasting and meaningful relationships.

In modern times ‘stress’ can be a huge motivator to relapse. One of the many benefits of aftercare is a safe place to talk with like-minded people. Talking through stresses instead of acting on them has been shown to reduce relapse.

Another benefit to aftercare is the supportive nature of the group, if relapse occurs, a quick return to aftercare may stop a long-term relapse from occurring.

Also, the aftercare facilitator has been trained to detect a relapse by one of their clients prior to relapse by analysis of their body language, conversation or actions.

Clients can attend aftercare at Abbeycare for up to 18 months post rehab and has been shown to reduce rates of relapse exponentially.

The three components of treatment within Abbeycare have been devised to reduce the risk of relapse.

Relapse Prevention Techniques at Abbeycare

These techniques if followed have been shown to decrease relapse rates. In some instances, attendance at rehab may be a once in a lifetime experience and participants are encouraged to use their time productively.

A common saying in rehab is ‘you get out what you put in.’

Apathy in not conducive with a therapeutic environment designed to elicit positive and life changing results. Let’s consider some techniques to implement in rehab at Abbeycare:

  • Practice the principle of self-honesty
  • Communicate feelings, emotions, thoughts
  • Promptly discussing thoughts of using alcohol or drugs with therapist
  • Attend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions
  • Take part in Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) with therapist
  • Apply the principles of Step 1 from the 12 Steps i.e. abstinence
  • Discover the ongoing benefits of Holistic Therapies

Relapse Prevention – Self Honesty

It could be argued relapse begins long before the physical act of using alcohol or drugs. Asking the following questions to self can be helpful:

  • Do I really want to stop or am I stopping to please another?
  • What am I prepared to do to stay stopped?
  • What areas of my life do I need to change?
  • Am I willing to accept the help on offer?
  • Am I willing to create an Aftercare plan and follow it Post-Rehab?

If the participant is not stopping the use of alcohol or drugs because they want to then relapse in most cases is almost inevitable. However, it must be noted many have attended rehab for the wrong reasons i.e. to please another but stayed for the right.

If the participant is only prepared to follow certain suggestions on offer within Rehab by the specialist therapy team then the ambivalence to change certain aspects of life may also result in relapse.

The creation of an Aftercare Plan within Abbeycare with the allocated Case Manager. (Case Managers are allocated on arrival at rehab). Is a vital component and deterrent to relapse. Aftercare if followed promotes long-term recovery.

If the answer to all the questions is honest and positive i.e. I want to stop for myself and I am prepared to take all the suggestions on board and implement them into my life then the incidence of relapse will reduce.

Relapse Triggers or Red Flags

Acting in ways that are not conducive to long-term recovery have been shown to increase the risk of relapse below is a list of warning signs.

  • Isolation
  • Not asking for help
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • H.A.L.T Hungry Angry Lonely Tired
  • Spending time with old companions in the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Overwhelming feelings and emotions
  • Complacency
  • Pride
  • Relationships – platonic and sexual
  • Ill health
  • Withdrawals
  • Dishonesty

Recommendations to stay substance free in the community

The following is a list of recommendations. If followed the rate of relapse is significantly reduced for the client. These recommendations are vital for maintaining the recovery gained in rehab upon leaving and returning to home.

  • Stop socialising in pubs and clubs or drinking establishments early recovery
  • Cut ties with other drug users
  • Try not to keep secrets from your therapist or recovery sponsor
  • Take guidance when making life changing decisions – relationships, jobs, housing etc.
  • Share any thoughts of using alcohol or drugs as soon as they arise with therapist or recovery sponsor

Relapse Prevention Strategies - Post Rehab

After leaving rehab there are many strategies the client can implement to stay sober.

  • Think of your worst day – in this instance if thoughts of using alcohol or drugs return the client can think of their worst day in active addiction. This can act as a powerful deterrent.
  • Tell someone – sharing thoughts of using will reduce the obsessive thinking and talking to someone will help put things into perspective
  • Distract yourself – reading a book, exercise or going for a walk can all act as distraction techniques until the thought subsides.
  • Live in the day – looking too far into the future can create anxiety and fear those in recovery are encouraged to keep the focus on one day at a time
  • Relaxation techniques – yoga, meditation, mindfulness can all reduce any thoughts of alcohol or drugs and calm the mind.
  • Aftercare – attending aftercare for up to 18 months post rehab has been shown to reduce the incidence or relapse
  • Peers – talking to people who know how you feel will give the client identification and motivation to carry on
  • Sponsor- call a recovery sponsor to share the day or any problems
  • Writing – if unable to access recovery meetings or share with another writing down feelings can lift the spirits
  • Reading literature – there are many recovery books such as The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous for those in recovery to read
  • Listening to recovery shares – the three main fellowships currently have recovery shares online listening to these can renew purpose for life
  • Implement Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – the therapist within Abbeycare will show their clients techniques to self-implement within the home
  • Implement Motivational Enhancement Therapy – the therapist within Abbeycare will show clients techniques to follow once home
  • Practice 12 steps – the 12 Steps are a tried and tested model of recovery after working with a recovery sponsor they can be used in daily life to help maintain long-term recovery
  • Delete old phone numbers – if there are phone numbers attached to drug use stored on mobile phones therapists recommend they are deleted.
  • Give spouse car keys and bank card
  • Remove alcohol from house
  • Remove drug paraphernalia from the home

Programme Participants will find implementing some of these strategies throughout their day early recovery will reduce thoughts of using alcohol and drugs. Through time thoughts will decrease if the Aftercare plan is followed and the participant continues to work on their own recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

“I don’t have the time to commit to all of these suggestions will I relapse?”

The list of recommendations to stay sober may appear overwhelming. Most people in recovery will not follow the full list. They will find a routine that works for them. Including self-care, phoning a friend in recovery once per day and if possible attending a recovery meeting such an AA, NA or CA.

On the scales of balance, a short time spent staying sober each day is worthwhile to maintain recovery.

“What is a recovery sponsor?”

A recovery sponsor can be found in 12 Step fellowship meetings such as AA, NA or CA the therapists at Abbeycare will explain their role in greater depth.

The sponsor will guide sponsees through the 12 Step Programme which has been created as a self-help programme to maintain recovery from alcohol and drugs. And help participants live a happy, purposeful life.

“How do you work the 12 Steps into your life?”

The 12 Step article found on Abbeycare’s web page will highlight in detail the basis of the 12 Steps and how beneficial they can be for people in recovery.

The main principle is abstinence from alcohol and drugs. If abstinent the intense craving for more alcohol and drugs will not occur.

The 12 Steps are supportive and provide the tools for living a sober lifestyle.

“Should I take an any of the tablets to stop craving alcohol when I leave rehab?”

Alcohol or Opiate blockers are common tablets for those who are not accessing support or therapy for their addiction.

At Abbeycare through Detox, Rehab and Aftercare the client is supported for upwards of 18 months and in this time are shown many beneficial techniques for staying sober.

Abbeycare helps clients build an ongoing support network Post Rehab and the tools to combat thoughts of using alcohol and/or drugs.

“If I leave rehab early can I come back?”

Most programmes within Abbeycare last 28 Days (see Long Term Rehab Article) an intensive therapeutic programme is created to promote the change required to get sober and stay sober.

Leaving rehab early and coming back is in-practical participants are encouraged to complete the 28 Days consecutively.

Relapse Prevention may be under-rated by some as the belief that removing the dependence on the drug of choice will open the door to freedom.

If new to recovery clients will learn drugs and alcohol are just a symptom to the underlying human condition. There is more to recovery than the cessation of their drug of choice.

Thinking and behaviour patterns are required to be reviewed and re-learned as the participant learns how to live again without turning to substances to deal with feelings or the stress of life.

After completing Detox and Rehab within Abbeycare encouragement to attend the Aftercare programme is given as the early days after rehab when participants return home can be the most challenging.

Participants are encouraged to continue talking about their feelings, access recovery meetings, find a sponsor and change old behaviour patterns associated with the purchasing and using of alcohol and drugs.

If you visualise yourself free from alcohol and drugs living a happy and productive life?

And wish to learn more about our Addiction Treatment or Aftercare Programme call our free 24/7 Helpline on 01603 513 091 or fill out the form below to speak to a trained addiction counsellor.


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About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.